The new Ezra Klein venture at Vox

by on January 26, 2014 at 6:34 pm in Current Affairs, History, Web/Tech | Permalink

You can find Ezra’s words here.  Do read the whole thing, here is one excerpt:

Today, we are better than ever at telling people what’s happening, but not nearly good enough at giving them the crucial contextual information necessary to understand what’s happened. We treat the emphasis on the newness of information as an important virtue rather than a painful compromise.

The news business, however, is just a subset of the informing-our-audience business  —  and that’s the business we aim to be in. Our mission is to create a site that’s as good at explaining the world as it is at reporting on it.

Matt Yglesias, Dylan Matthews, and Melissa Bell (and others to follow) will be coming along.  Here is David Carr on the venture.

Addendum: The jobs ad is quite useful:

Project X (working title) is a user’s guide to the news produced by the beat reporters and subject area experts who know it best.

We’ll have regular coverage of everything from tax policy to True Detective, but instead of letting that reporting gather dust in an archive, we’ll use it to build and continuously update a comprehensive set of explainers of the topics we cover. We want to create the single best resources for news consumers anywhere.

We’ll need writers who are obsessively knowledgeable about their subjects to do that reporting and write those explainers — as well as ambitious feature pieces. We’ll need D3 hackers and other data viz geniuses who can explain the news in ways words can’t. We’ll need video producers who can make a two-minute cartoon that summarizes the Volcker rule perfectly. We’ll need coders and designers who can build the world’s first hybrid news site/encyclopedia. And we’ll need people who want to join Vox’s great creative team because they believe in making ads so beautiful that our readers actually come back for them too.

Sound like you? Then apply now.

And Ezra explains more here.

1 jeff January 26, 2014 at 6:40 pm

SNARK SNARK SNARK

2 Max January 26, 2014 at 6:55 pm

The facts just aren’t liberal enough.

3 S January 26, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Well if you cant trust the Journ-0-list guy to provide the proper context who can you trust.

4 anne January 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm

+1

5 Marie January 26, 2014 at 7:02 pm

How about we start with reporting the facts with precision; we’ll all have a nice conversation about whether journalism needs to tell us what to think about the facts *after* we’ve got that first part down.

6 Jay January 26, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Come on, estimates are journalists best friend – particularly the ones heavy on the ideology. You can make whatever ridiculous assumptions you want, don’t bother disclaiming them and then claim anything you want as a “fact”.

3 out of 4 dentists prefer CREST
3 out of 4 dentists prefer Scope

Don’t bother asking how I came about these “facts”.

7 Z January 27, 2014 at 8:29 am

Pretty much any operation with the phrase “fact check” attached to it is an ideological clearing house for vetting the acceptability of facts.

8 CMOT January 26, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Hold on – these folks mostly roll each other’s logs. If they are on the same site, will it still count as log rolling?

9 Steve Sailer January 26, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Good question.

10 JWatts January 27, 2014 at 11:23 am

“If they are on the same site, will it still count as log rolling?”

Or more to the point, will they get as many unique users reading their columns? Granted, they can probably still make a lot of money and be popular with half the page clicks as they previously got. However, what if they only get 1/4th as many?

I’m impressed by the gamble, but I wonder how much of it is just plain old arrogance and narcissism.

11 CPV January 26, 2014 at 7:42 pm

What are the incentives of the people who control the way the world is reported? Do they tend to report the world in ways that validate their priors? Does using new technology make the news better? What is better news?

12 Dave Anthony January 26, 2014 at 8:02 pm

On the bright side, Matt Yglesias occasionally has some well reasoned, intelligent arguments to make. On the down side, Ezra Klein never does.

13 Jay January 26, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Just because he runs from a hackish site named Wonkblog doesn’t mean he no longer deserves the title Donkblogger.

14 W.E. Heasley January 26, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Oh, so Ezra is going to use the same format. Very nice.

15 Chip January 26, 2014 at 8:08 pm

More partisan hackery from a boy-man with zero real world experience and a history of attempting to manipulate rather than report the news.

What’s not to like!

16 TMC January 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Well, he did get elected twice.

17 dead serious January 27, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Yeah, but GWB had family connections. Helps when you want to dodge the draft, run a baseball team, or (and) be POTUS.

18 Lonely libertarian January 26, 2014 at 8:14 pm

The first sentence is very scary – enough to make me never go to his new site…

19 Commenterlein January 26, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Lots of nastiness here.

Challenge:

(1) Name a left-of-center journalist / news analyst who you believe does good work and who you enjoy reading.

(2) Repeat with a right-of-center journalist / news analyst.

If you can’t, the problem is arguably with you, not with every single journalist / news analyst out there.

20 Yancey Ward January 26, 2014 at 8:43 pm

The nastiness is well deserved in the case of Klein who is a political apparatchik masquerading for years as a journalist/news analyst, and to make matters worse, not even an insightful writer or analyst on anything.

21 Becon January 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Felix Salmon and Megan McArdle come to mind.

But I take issue with the premise that I have to like professional journalists at all. I prefer my analysis to come from people in industry and academia that have a knack for writing. Not 20-something journalists with experience in neither.

22 derek January 26, 2014 at 11:47 pm

The journalist exposure was useful in making a list of people you never link to or read. Otherwise you encourage that type of stupidity.

23 Z January 27, 2014 at 8:27 am

I love how the totalitarian mind works.

24 Richard Besserer January 27, 2014 at 10:43 am

I read Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong regularly, and MR and Econlog regularly, and yes, find both sets of blogs worthwhile. What do I win?

25 orthodoc January 27, 2014 at 6:56 pm

One of the nice things about this new Internet thingie is that I don’t have to depend on a “news analyst” for my information. If I want to learn about law issues, I can find a lawyer on line who knows a lot more about it than some dweeb who’s writing the equivalent of a term paper.

Same with medical policy, which is allegedly little Ezra’s area of expertise. As a guy who’s been doing the medical/surgical thing for over 20 years, I can tell you with great certainty that I can walk down the corridor of my hospital and find 20 people who know more about medical policy than Ezra Klein. And if I want to get information on how many left-handed Hispanics over the age of 40 lack health insurance, I can get actual data, as opposed the slant from some 25-year-old still living at home.

26 Mark February 3, 2014 at 8:49 am

Kevin Drum and Ross Douthat.

27 Rich Berger January 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Jeff Bezos is a very cunning man.

28 md January 26, 2014 at 10:35 pm

+1. Indeed he is.

29 JWatts January 27, 2014 at 11:30 am

“Jeff Bezos is a very cunning man.”

We’ll see if this turns out to be shrewd business decision or not. This might well be a Win-Win situation, whereby Ezra Klein and coterie are better off and The Washington Post is also better off.

30 curious infovore January 26, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Oh come on fellow infovores, aren’t you even a little curious about the new venture?

Clearly newspapers like WaPo are not commercially viable over the long run and it’s not like Wikipedia or independent blogs are flawless either. I agree with them that building context is important, but it’s tricky.

For example, one thing I sometimes dislike about this blog is the constant flow of random bits (some of which are so bad in quality) but good or bad the bits float away. Compare that to a blog like Sumner’s that is a drum beat of basically one message. He’s got tons of context and storyline but honestly it gets boring and annoying how every bit gets shoehorned in his narrative (or discredited). But it depends what kind of informational experience you are looking for.

Kudos to this group of enterprising (and restless) journalists for trying to improve on the status quo. Even if it’s an abject failure, it seems well worth a try.

31 Adrian Ratnapala January 26, 2014 at 8:48 pm

…instead of letting that reporting gather dust in an archive, we’ll use it to build and continuously update a comprehensive set of explainers of the topics we cover.

There’s something to this. I sometimes use the Wikipedia as a source of breaking news, and welcome seeing only a one-sentence edit to an existing article.

32 CMOT January 26, 2014 at 8:53 pm

“Tina Fey dissed archfoe Aaron Sorkin Sunday night at the Writers Guild Awards. The “30 Rock” star competes with Sorkin’s “Studio 60”: Both take place behind the scenes at a show like “Saturday Night Live,” where Fey was head writer. Wiggling around the Hudson Theatre stage in a party frock with plunging decolletage, Fey told the crowd, “I hear Aaron Sorkin is in Los Angeles wearing the same dress – but longer, and not funny.”

I think that Nate Silver is going to be saying something simular soon …

33 msgkings January 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Their rivalry is pretty friendly. Aaron Sorkin did a very funny guest appearance on 30 Rock once.

34 Jan January 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

On the one hand, I’m excited to see what they put together. On the other hand, I’m not optimistic about the impact because, as the vitriol in the comments here demonstrates, the trend is that more and more people are focusing on a narrower spectrum of media that just confirms their worldview. They may be consuming information from more sources within that spectrum, but they’re all saying the same thing. If you’ve decided Ezra Klein is a fraud, it doesn’t matter what context he gives for a story or how elegantly his team presents the data, you’re not giving it a shot. I think it’s a mistake and that’s why I keep reading this here blog and even stuff like Redstate.

35 Chip January 26, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Context does matter, and the context in reading Klein is that a certain political party is always right.

Which is tough when the inept party you currently support is almost always wrong.

But, hey, don’t let this get in the way of your need for ‘elegance.’

36 AlanW January 26, 2014 at 11:09 pm

If Marginal Revolution is as open-minded as your reading gets, you live in a claustrophobic intellectual space.

Klein is very liberal – there’s no need to argue about that. But he does two worthwhile things: Original reporting (and/or data analysis) and questioning the conventional wisdom of his own side. There’s precious little of those from partisans on either side and it makes him worth reading – especially if you disagree with him.

I don’t think there’s an exact analogy on the right – Reihan Salam or Yuval Levin at least dig deeper than the talking points of the day. I’d love to see more policy-oriented reporting from a conservative worldview, but instead we get James O’Keefe.

37 Chip January 26, 2014 at 11:39 pm

“If Marginal Revolution is as open-minded as your reading gets, you live in a claustrophobic intellectual space.”

Does this head-spinning lurch from 1) assumption of my reading habits to 2) conclusion of my intellectual abilities one of the benefits of following Klein?

And to think by not reading Klein I am also deprived of the incisive wisdom of his readers comments.

38 Roy January 27, 2014 at 3:57 am

Oh I read plenty of people on the left, but I draw the line at Ezra, he is a hack rivalled only by Jonathon Cohn and whatever the heck Kevin Drumm has turned into. The difference between him and them is he claims this superior “wonk” status, and claim to some superior reality.

And unlike Yglesias, who has actually proclaimed his personal dishonesty he has no willingness to actually think about anything. Ezra Klein is like Paul Begala without any political experience. The only people more loathsome than he is are Sean Hannity and the entire MSNBC lineup, but no so called moderate has ever praised them as must reads.

39 Yancey Ward January 27, 2014 at 10:51 am

+1.

40 JWatts January 27, 2014 at 11:37 am

“On the one hand, I’m excited to see what they put together. On the other hand, I’m not optimistic about the impact because, as the vitriol in the comments here demonstrates, the trend is that more and more people are focusing on a narrower spectrum of media that just confirms their worldview.”

Does it not occur to you that Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, etc going off to create their own web site is actually going to lead to more people “focusing on a narrower spectrum of media that just confirms their worldview”?

41 Marie January 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I’m not really objectively interested in being fed propaganda, whether it confirms my world view or not (although I’ll confess to ego-centric self-deception, we all fall into that, all we can do is try to avoid it).

So, again, the goal would not be to widen my pool of sources in order to pull in propaganda from all sorts of points of view, it would be to discriminate in my media consumption so that I am retrieving information rather than propaganda.

Assuming the world is what it is, and isn’t multiple, it’s more than possible that if I were able to do this well then the majority of my info would be from media that oriented to a particular world view — the accurate one. That’s not a bad thing, recalling Chesterton’s warning not to open your mind so much that your brain falls out!

42 md January 26, 2014 at 10:31 pm

“We’ll need writers who are obsessively knowledgeable about their subjects to do that reporting and write those explainers”

Sounds like Ezra and Matt are looking to hire Steve Sailer, right? 🙂

43 anne January 26, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Balko and Volokh are in and Klein and Yglesias are out? Sounds like WaPo might make hay.

44 A B January 26, 2014 at 10:39 pm

People tend to vastly underestimate how much their title and position influence their popularity. People also vastly underestimate how likely they are to fail at building a popular website.

I predict that within 12 months of today, Ezra Klein will have less than 1/5th the current readership.

45 C January 26, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I applaud the effort, and the idea behind it… my only uncertainty is that I’ve been visiting the Verge (one of the publications mentioned by Klein in his post) now almost daily for months and I don’t feel that it has really done anything all that incredible or paradigm-shifting. it has a glossy look, but that’s about it. So, if the Verge is an example of a site that utilizes this Chorus platform thing, then I’m not sure my world has really altered that much in viewing content on it. Ultimately, this is all about content in the end anyway, so whatever Klein is saying about ways of showing it, I don’t really care much about any of that. I just want the content to be smart and to have relevance. I like most of Klein’s work on the Post so I don’t doubt his work in this new endeavor will be very interesting and relevant, but i’m not sold that something really “new” is going to happen here in terms of how content is deployed and how that deployment somehow creates new ways of understanding.

46 Steve Sailer January 27, 2014 at 2:42 am

My impression is that Ezra Klein knows a lot about health care finance (warning: I know very little about the subject, so don’t take my word for it). That’s an important subject. I was going to say that hopefully someday we’ll get paying for health care fixed once and for all, at which point Ezra might be in trouble career-wise. But, now that I think about it, that seems unlikely to happen. More plausibly, there will be plenty of journalism to write about this multi-trillion dollar topic forever.

So best of luck to Ezra and his new venture.

47 orthodoc January 27, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Actually, judging by his writings, Ezra Klein knows very little about health care in general, and finance in particular.

48 Jake January 27, 2014 at 3:28 am

Glad Bezos told Ezra to go pound sand.

Let’s see if Ezra will change his views regarding economics when he actually has to run a real business and not just be an editor of a WaPo blog.

49 Richard Besserer January 27, 2014 at 10:54 am

Or Ezra didn’t want to be part of someone else’s vanity project and decided it was time to move on? If so he hasn’t wanted for people with similar thinking to join him so far.

If Ezra left WaPo on bad terms with the new management, he hasn’t been daft enough to say so. Burning bridges in public is never good business. As far as anyone can tell his departure was voluntary. He’s still young enough that he can take chances like this.

50 CPV January 27, 2014 at 5:38 am

There’s a big difference between being a journalist and running a policy think tank disguised as journalism. This new venture seems to be the latter. “We treat the emphasis on the newness of information as an important virtue rather than a painful compromise.” Well, yes, new information is what news is. Context is in the eye of the beholder. For example, Ezra’s “context” about Obamacare shifted dramatically after his liberal buddies beat the crap out of him for being too critical of it.

51 Jay January 27, 2014 at 7:54 am

But the EPI/Heritage pump out unbiased peer-reviewed cow manure.

52 C January 27, 2014 at 7:39 am
53 Jay January 27, 2014 at 7:53 am

Klein has a B.A. in Political Science. The only thing he is qualified to do is bullshit and that is what he does on a daily basis.

54 Nigel January 27, 2014 at 8:37 am

Best comment under Klein’s article:
“Its kinda ironic that an article announcing a new website that is going to focus on giving us context failed to do so (at least for most of the people reading the article, myself included)…”

Which, to be fair, he acknowledged.

55 Ryan D January 27, 2014 at 9:42 am

So it’s Wikipedia, except that the articles are written by “wonks” of known political persuasion?

56 Richard Besserer January 27, 2014 at 10:39 am

That’s what I was thinking.

Whatever you think of the political persuasion, what *is* wrong with Wiki in this regard?

(Then again, you could say the same about David Henderson’s Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, so.)

57 Richard Besserer January 27, 2014 at 11:02 am

I wish him luck. I see he’s attracted enough people with decent “brands” in the pundit-sphere that his project isn’t obviously doomed to failure. I don’t read Ezra Klein himself much, but I’d go to his website for Yglesias (for example; not always right, but at least interestingly wrong).

He has a point that putting the news of the day in some sort of context is pretty much the only way different news sources can distinguish their brand these days. Everyone has the same data within five minutes of each other; modelling the data is where the value added comes in.

And who knows, maybe it was time for him to move on. He’s still young, and with better things to do than be a part of someone’s vanity project. If Jeff Bezos is moving the Post in a different, right-libertarian direction (Red Tory or Blue Liberal, as I might put it in Canada), that might have been part of the motivation, but not all. If he left on bad terms with the new management, he hasn’t been daft enough to let on.

58 Rottin' in Denmark January 27, 2014 at 11:07 am

This thread is so much nastier than I thought it would be! I’m totally applying.

59 RPLong January 27, 2014 at 11:51 am

I’m confused. Didn’t Stiglitz already do this?

60 R Richard Schweitzer January 27, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Mr. Klein is among that multitude of wordsmiths who have decided that their function is not so much to deliver information or reveal its ambiguities as it is to determine (or at least influence) how that information should be understood by the recipients.

61 Marie January 27, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Thank you.

62 Roy January 28, 2014 at 12:41 am

So when does Yglesias get fired from the Verge for right deviation.

I’m telling you he is going to be the Mickey Kaus of the 2030s, but instead of immigration his peeve will be zoning.

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